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Should You Rely On Your Car’s Safety Features?

Posted on: July 21, 2022

Over the past several decades, automobile technology has vastly moved forward, making cars and trucks safer than they ever have been. Fatal car accidents have been on a downward trend thanks to modern safety systems like advanced airbags, lane departure warnings, adaptive cruise control and more. However, crash statistics have not improved as well as some would expect. Recent studies are revealing that an overreliance on new safety tech, and perhaps a lack of knowledge on how some systems work, are among some significant factors that contribute to car accidents across the country.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the improved automotive technology has kept us safe by preventing accidents, especially in emergency situations. Because the vast majority of car accidents are caused by human error, these systems are designed to minimize human error, such as backup cameras helping us park or lane-assist alarms warning us of someone in our blind spot.

However, too much dependency on these advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) can actually result in more accidents and injuries. When properly used, ADAS can help prevent over 40 percent of all car accidents and almost 30 percent of traffic deaths.

Studies have found that a lot of work still needs to be done to educate drivers about what ADAS is designed to do, and what their limitations are. In fact, a survey by the University of Iowa found that most drivers who have ADAS systems installed in their cars do not fully understand them. After evaluating the awareness and understanding of ADAS by the surveyed drivers, the survey found that:

  • Over 80 percent of drivers do not know the limitations of blind-spot detectors, believing that the system can accurately detect bicycles, pedestrians, and high-speed vehicles.
  • Almost 40 percent of drivers did not know the difference between their forward-collision warning system and automatic emergency braking systems, assuming that they were the same system.
  • Over 25 percent of drivers depended on their blind-spot systems to pickup pedestrians and other cars, so they would not visually check themselves.
  • About 25 percent of drivers depend so much on their forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning systems that they felt comfortable performing other tasks.

Furthermore, research by the American Automobile Association (AAA) has found that ADAS systems do not function properly during inclement weather. One experiment that AAA performed found that when travelling at 35 mph during poor driving conditions, vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking collided with another vehicle one third of the time. During another experiment with vehicles equipped with lane keeping assistance, AAA found that cars would depart their lane almost 70 percent of the time.

One problem found by AAA is that car manufacturers design their ADAS systems in near perfect conditions. Unfortunately, drivers on today’s roads almost always find themselves in conditions that are far from perfect. The cameras, radars, and sensors that ADAS systems utilize can get smeared with dirt, fog, even bugs, causing the ADAS system to perform poorly.

AAA advises drivers to still use their driver assistance systems, but do not rely on them entirely and should never take the place of focused, engaged driving. All ADAS systems, when operating properly and in ideal driving conditions, work well enough to assist the driver and keeping them safe, but an overreliance on technology likely will lead to a crash.

How Can Vehicle Safety Technology Be So Dangerous?

Becoming overly accustomed to ADAS without knowing how they function is causing drivers to become careless. Here are some reasons that potentially can make ADAS systems dangerous:

  • ADAS systems cannot do everything: Although ADAS systems have made driving safer, they are meant to take on certain driving responsibilities, and not to do away with them entirely. The driver still needs to be alert and focused. The effectiveness of ADAS systems depends on situation to situation, and not every situation is perfect. ADAS systems cannot do everything for the driver, as they should be used more as an aid than a replacement. It is important to know that technology has limitations, such as a rearview camera not seeing very clearly because of heavy rain.  
  • Drivers are not familiar with technology: With new, advanced technology coming out seemingly every year, drivers are not as knowledgeable with their ADAS systems as they should be. Surveys have shown that some drivers confuse some systems with others, like a forward collision system with automatic braking, and so forth. This leads to vehicle accidents when drivers think they are being safe.
  • Lazy drivers: ADAS systems like automatic cruise control or blind spot monitoring systems can cause drivers to lose focus and drift off, essentially distracting themselves from driving. Some drivers get too comfortable with the use of an ADAS system and leave that driving responsibility to technology.
  • Overreliance: Other studies show that drivers are so reliant on their ADAS systems, they believe they could perform other tasks in the car like checking a text message instead of actual driving. For instance, when you over rely on rear back up sensors when parking, you tend to not even check for pedestrians.

Instead of relying on ADAS systems, experts recommend to going back to the same driving techniques and basic rules we learned before technology came out and using ADAS solely for their assistance. Driving techniques like checking your blind spot before changing lanes is just one example of many that will help keep you safe. With the help of ADAS systems, drivers could be much safer on the road.

ADAS Systems You Need to Know

Drivers need to familiarize themselves with what safety features they have in their own vehicles, knowing how they function and their limitations. Some of the basic safety equipment you could find in the modern vehicle include:

  • Airbags: Since 1998, and many years before that, front airbags have been a staple in the modern vehicle, having saved thousands of lives. However, when an occupant is not wearing a seatbelt, airbags have caused many serious injuries and death. Airbags have gotten more advanced over the years, with different locations like side airbags and rollover protective airbags.
  • Antilock brakes: Antilock brakes (ABS) prevent your wheels from locking up when you brake hard, especially on slippery surfaces. When in a hard-braking situation, the ABS kicks in rapidly to allow the driver to maintain control and steering even while braking.  
  • Traction control: When you are at a full stop, traction control keeps your wheels from spinning when you accelerate, giving you maximum traction. Some vehicles have traction control systems that operate only at lower speeds, while other cars have their systems work at all speeds.
  • Electronic stability control: Similar to traction control, the electronic stability control (ESC) system keeps a vehicle in its intended direction during a turn to prevent skidding. Normally operated by sensors that detect wheel speed and other factors, the ESC system can brake a wheel or two if it senses sliding.  
  • Seat belt features: The best safety equipment in a car is the seatbelt, which over the years has saved countless lives. Seatbelts should be worn at all times, regardless of speed. More modern features make seatbelt operation more efficient, retracting in milliseconds to prevent a passenger from moving during an accident.
  • Brake assistance: Brake assist functions when a driver performs a panic stop, braking the vehicle with maximum force without locking up the wheels.
  • Forward-collision warning: Using cameras and radar, the forward-collision warning system senses cars ahead and sounds an alarm telling the driver if they are approaching another vehicle too quickly, normally with a visual and audio alert system. 
  • Automatic emergency braking: Automatic emergency braking systems normally work with forward-collision systems and will engage the car’s brakes if the driver does not react in time to the forward-collision warning.
  • Blind-spot warning: Blind-spot warning systems use radars or cameras to detect vehicles in a lane besides yours and alerts the driver of their presence normally with a warning on the dashboard or sideview mirror. Some vehicles have audible warnings if you attempt to switch lanes with a car detected by the system.
  • Lane-departure warning: Lane-departure warning systems sense when a vehicle is moving out of its lane without the turn signals on.
  • Back-up camera: When the vehicle is put in reverse, a camera in the rearview will display the back-up view for the driver to use as a parking aid. Newer backup cameras can detect if a pedestrian or car is approaching from the back or to the side. Other newer systems give a 360-degree view around the entire vehicle.

Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law, P.C. Can Help You When Safety Features Fail

A car accident at any degree of severity can be traumatic, especially when safety systems you trust don’t work as they should. Our Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law, P.C. can help. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact the firm online to schedule a free consultation. Based in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Freehold, Asbury Park, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Long Branch, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as those in Brooklyn and New York City.